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Regular version of the site

Book chapter

Trial by fire: the impact of natural disaster on attitudes toward the government in rural Russia

P. 11-22.
Lazarev Y. A., Sobolev A. S., Soboleva I. V., Sokolov B.
This study aims to explore the logic of political support under non-democratic regime by the investigation of the impact of natural disaster — the enormous wild-fires, occurred in rural Russia in the summer of 2010, on political attitudes of local population. The research exploits a natural experiment methodology. Since the wildfire spreads due to a direction of wind, i.e. by the Nature, the targets of it are totally random — a village may be burned and the neighboring one has no damage  at all. We test the effects of this exogenous variation by a survey of almost 800 respondents in 4 most suffered regions of Russia in randomly selected 34 burned and 36 unburned villages. Contrary to the conventional scholarly wisdom which suggests that natural disasters lead to blaming politicians, our study finds that in the burned villages there is a higher support for the government at all levels, namely for the United Russia Party, a village head, a governor, Prime Minister Putin and President Medvedev. This finding is robust even for the models with control for the generous governmental aid provided for the villages, which were damaged by the fires. The rise of paternalistic attitudes in the aftermath of the disaster is explained by the impact of political regime features and emotional, behavioral and cognitive experience of the people.